BOISE – Idaho Gov. Brad Little has asked most state agencies to trim their current budgets by 1% and prepare for more cuts in the coming year.
The Idaho Press reports the request excludes K-12 public schools. He sent a memo to other state agencies late last month asking them to identify another 2% base reduction in their budgets for the coming year.
The Republican governor’s chief of staff Zach Hauge wrote in the memo that the budget recommendation is guaranteed to include continued investments in public schools.
“Gov. Little’s No. 1 priority is education,” Hauge wrote. “He has said it is our moral and constitutional obligation to ensure Idaho students are prepared for a lifetime of learning and eventual careers.”
Alex Adams, Little’s budget chief, said the reductions were a “spending reset.”
“This is not a holdback, when revenue is not sufficient to meet your spending for the year,” Adams said. “That’s simply not the case in Idaho.”
State tax revenues are running substantially lower than anticipated, but the state budget still has a big cushion, in part because this year’s spending was budgeted to total about $174 million less than the predicted tax revenues.
Even with tax revenues coming in lower than expected, the cushion still is a projected $76 million if current trends hold. The state also has $500 million in rainy-day funds saved.
Idaho has been growing rapidly, but economists expect to see the rate of growth slowing over the next few years, Adams said. This year, Idaho’s state general fund revenue is growing by 5.2%, he said, which puts it among the top 10 states in the nation for growth. State economists are forecasting 4.7% growth next year and 4.5% the year after.
“We have a belief that spending has grown faster than we can keep up with,” Adams said. “The economists still think that we’ve got several years of growth ahead of us … It’s just slower than what it’s been in previous years.”
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